Sunday, September 09, 2007

Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield: 'Pusherman' (from Superfly, 1973)

Curtis Mayfield: 'Freddie's Dead' (1973)

Talking a bit about my influences... Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999) was one of those rare artists managing to combine in their music the social, the spiritual and the soulful. In the 60s addressing the issues of black liberation with his songs for Mayfield's band The Impressions, such as the much-covered 'People Get Ready', the awareness which continued all the way to his solo career, where the forward-looking positivity of songs like 'Move On Up' was counterbalanced by the chilly apocalypticism of 'If There's A Hell Below', and the unquestionable quality of Mayfield's soundtrack for Superfly ('Pusherman', 'Freddie's Dead' and the title track among those classic songs on the album which may be his greatest work) far exceeds that of the film itself. Though the social commentary in his songs might occasionally have been bleak, the whole life's work of Curtis Mayfield represented great optimism and an unceasing faith in the future, the fact that is only rendered extremely bitter by his tragic final years which he spent quadraplegic after having become paralyzed in a stage accident in 1990.

Some time ago I read People Never Give Up by Peter Sharp, a 2003 biography of Curtis Mayfield, and even though Sharp meticulously listed discographic type of info in his book, perhaps I would have liked to hear more about Mayfield as a person, what made him tick, his social environment and other such things influencing his output, so there's still yet another work to be written about this seminal character in the 20th century American music.

And yet another great Mayfield song for The Impressions, from the psychedelic soul period and with a rare video clip:

The Impressions: 'Check Out Your Mind' (1970)

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